Dormcon Looks at Year Full of ChangeBy Orli G. Bahcall
ASSOCIATE NEWS EDITOR
Dormitory Council elected Christopher H. Barron '97 as president and Jen Peltz '98 as vice president in its annual elections, held last week.
Dormcon - the group that represents dormitories and their concerns on campus - has been involved in a number of wide-ranging decisions over the past year, and will face more challenges in the coming one, including patching relationships with the Interfraternity Council and the Office of Residence and Campus Activities and working to develop plans for rush.
Barron hopes to ensure that the coming year's plans follow the plans of the previous officers, though he is not yet sure what those plans will be.
Dormcon - which "has grown to be the most dynamic and active student government organization on campus," according to outgoing President Dhaya Lakshminarayanan '96 - has reached several goals this year. They include working with the Department of Housing and Food Services to reopen Baker and Next House dining halls, discussing the future of food service on campus, and reinstating a house tax, Lakshminarayanan said.
Last year Dormcon also eliminated Clearinghouse - the computerized system used to keep track of freshmen during Residence and Orientation Week - from dormitory use during rush and withdrew from the Mediations Committee.
Rush rules will be clearer
As rush chair of Senior House last year, Barron realized that rush was very difficult from a rules and policy standpoint in that "people in the dorms never really understood why they had to provide the service of Clearinghouse," he said.
The main problems with rush are that there is no one group in charge and that the rules haven't been clear Barron said. Medcomm, RCA, and the Campus Police were all announcing rush rules, and all three groups had the power to shut down an event, he said.
Next year R/O will benefit from the absence of Clearinghouse in that freshmen will "not be constantly badgered to check in," Lakshminarayanan said. R/O workers will be freer to devote time to help plan dorm events, she said.
Earlier this year Dormcon pulled out of Medcomm, a mediating committee charged with resolving conflicts and violations of mutual dorm and fraternity rules, sparking a debate with the IFC and RCA.
The point of rush is to put freshmen in the best position to choose their housing and to protect their rights, Barron said. "Medcomm wasn't doing this. It was more of a fight between two sides, each side trying to get the most power that they could. It was not about helping the frosh," he said.
But there is now no mechanism to resolve conflicts between independent living groups and residence halls except for filing a complaint with the deans office, said Margaret A. Jablonski, associate dean for residence and campus activities.
"Dormcon has gone on their own and decided to do something that really needs to be decided in conjunction with RCA and IFC. Now we are backing up and trying to get them back to the table to negotiate some of this," Jablonski said.
IFC President Jason D. Pride '97 has a third solution. "IFC supports a mediation committee. It is a more personal and direct route to settling disputes than going through a third party," he said. "There is no reason to be pulling RCA in."
"Medcomm would help if there were two groups of like mind who wanted to meet and make consensus agreements between each other," Barron said. However, we face a different situation, with the set up "almost adversarial, and Medcomm becomes a little battle ground," Barron said.
"I think we gave much more than we took in the Medcomm process," former IFCPresident Brian D. Dye '96 said. "I don't know what was the start of [Dormcon's] hostility, but we can work together and have a functional and respected Medcomm for next year."
Dormcon realized that while Medcomm was important, "it wasn't of concern to IFCor RCA, so it wasn't meeting our goals to be part of Medcomm," Lakshminarayanan said.
"IFC cared about working with Medcomm, but every time we had a Medcomm meeting, Dormcon was not willing to compromise on anything. You can't get anywhere in a mediations unless both groups have a give and take," Pride said.
But Barron sees the situation differently. "In our past experience, if IFCisn't even going to care about the rules we set in Medcomm, why bother with it?" he said.
Earlier this fall, Dormcon brought a charge at a Medcomm hearing against a fraternity member that walked into East Campus during rush, a violation of rush rules.
"The assumptions that Dormcon has made about Medcomm began during this trial," Pride said. "Dormcon simply walked out of the room after refusing to compromise."
Jablonski agrees. "The event wasn't resolved to Dormcon's liking. Ithink this is where a lot of this stems from," she said. "And IFC is frustrated with Dormcon's decision to unilaterally sever any relationship with them."
Dormcon officers disagree, however. "Dormcon's decision to pull out of Medcomm is not related to any event," Lakshminarayanan said. Dormcon had been looking into re-engineering itself earlier, she said.
None of these actions were "to spite anyone, or to make rush difficult for other groups," Lakshminarayanan said. "We don't perceive any conflict. We are just doing what is good for our organization," she said.
However, part of "having students govern themselves is that sometimes it is not going to work out the way everyone wants it to, but they participate in resolving conflicts democratically, and hope that the majority of the time people are satisfied," Jablonski said.
Dormcon continues involvement
Decisions that affect students should "not be made by administrators only but should heavily involve student input," Lakshminarayanan said.
While it is a positive step that the leadership of Dormcon wants the residence halls to have a more active voice in determining policy, "at the same time this means participating and collaborating with IFC and RCA and not making unilateral decisions," Jablonski said.
"What we are left with right now is the two groups developing separate rules and RCAleft two enforce them. This doesn't make sense to us when have to try to empower students to enforce their own rules," Jablonski said.
Dormcon representatives said it has "really thought about these new [Judicial Committee] rules for a long time, and will not be having a Medomm next year or the year after. We will not change our mind," Lakshminarayanan said.
This gives Dormcon's Judcomm the authority to undertake judicial proceedings for any individual on campus by itself, Lakshminarayanan said.
This new code has not yet been officially revised, Jablonski said. Dormcon has presented a draft of the code, and "while we are open to considering revising that document, the way it currently read is in direct conflict to our judicial system," she said.